28 April 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Polo R WRCs on the podium: Ogier and Mikkelsen score at Rally Argentina

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Argentina: Ogier/Ingrassia

After an eventful three days, Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen stood on the second and third steps respectively of the 36th Rally Argentina podium. Hyundai Motorsport’s Hayden Paddon emerged victorious after an incident-packed fourth round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), which ran around the gravel tracks surrounding Córdoba from 21-24 April.

Second-fastest time
After a six-week break, the Volkswagen team were all ready for the 364.68km Argentine event and, along with Hyundai, set the pace on Shakedown. Recording the second and third fastest times, the Hannover-based outfit Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila were in the leading Polo R WRC, with Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia third. Norwegians Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger were fifth.

Going into the action proper on the first special stage – a 1.5-km long spectator-lined spectacle in the centre of Córdoba – Volkswagen’s Ogier was keen to clinch victory as the South American round is the only one on the current WRC calendar the Frenchman is yet to win. It started well, with the Gap-born driver clocking the fastest time along with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo. Latvala finished twelfth, while Mikkelsen was just one place below his Finnish team-mate.

The first full day of action delivered action aplenty. Latvala and Anttila stormed ahead after 152 kilometres of stages to take the lead, leaving Ogier and Ingrassia trailing over seven seconds behind. Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon and John Kennard were an impressive third in the i20 WRC, one place ahead of Mikkelsen and Jæger.

Spectacular crash
Still on a high after their victory at Rally Mexico last month, Latvia and Anttila were on a charge. Sadly, it wasn’t to last. On stage 14 of day two, the Finns spectacularly crashed out after hitting a rock at the side of the road. The number ‘2’ Polo R WRC rolled several times, and the damage to the car was so severe, the pair were forced to retire. The Finns’ exit was great shame, as Latvala had finally seemed to have broken his 2016 start-of-season run of bad luck.

Almost unbelievably, Latvala’s departure handed the rally lead to young Paddon, who was 29.8 seconds ahead of world champion Ogier. Going into the last four special stages and 55.28 kilometres of the final day, it was a David and Goliath battle to play for. Mikkelsen and Jæger had kept up the pace, too, and finished the day 14.5 seconds behind Ogier and Ingrassia.

Genuinely impressive
In the end, it wasn’t too be, and Ogier had to narrowly admit defeat behind the genuinely impressive Paddon. The final gap was just 2.6 seconds, Ogier and Ingrassia had eroded the Paddon’s lead massively but it wasn’t enough, and the Frenchmen finished third on the final Power Stage. However, second place still earned them enough points to take them 39 points clear of Paddon in the drivers’ championship – the young-gun Kiwi is now in second position.

Ogier was respectful of Paddon’s performance: ‘It is not usually a good feeling for a driver to be beaten by an opponent. This time, however, it is easier to accept. Hayden and I had exactly the same conditions out on the route: he went absolutely all-out on the Power Stage, and was simply better.

‘For me, this will serve as a great motivation to once again give it my all at the coming rallies, in order to get back on the top step of the podium. The stages were extremely difficult and rough, which is possibly why I did not risk everything. Second place is still a fantastic result for Julien and me.’

Mikkelsen’s and Jæger’s ‘serene and mature’ display saw them round out the podium places, 50.9 seconds behind Ogier. Their calculated risk strategy worked well and the pair now sit in fourth place in the overall standings. The 2016 result was also best result of Mikkelsen’s career in Argentina. As for Latvala and Anttila, the Finnish pair still collected two manufacturer points for Volkswagen, after an impressive rebuild of their Polo R WRC on the evening of day two.

Extensive parts list
The list of parts which needed attention on Latvia’s Polo R WRC was extensive. Externally, the car needed a new tailgate, front and rear shock absorbers, bonnet, front windscreen, both mirrors, left and right wings, antennas, as well as a new under-body guard.

Internally, new seats, seat rails, harnesses, a new HANS systems and helmets, a front wishbone, a front track rod, a complete rear axle, new cardan shafts, a water cooler and intercooler, top mounts, shock absorbers, wheel mounts, drive shafts, and wheel arch liners were all needed.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the Volkswagen team mechanics, the number ‘2’ Polo R WRC was repaired within the maximum three hours allowed. The Finnish duo were then able to re-join the rally on day three under Rally 2 regulations, and crossed the Argentinian finish line in 16th position.

‘First podium finish’
Mikkelsen was pleased with his and Jæger’s measured approach: ‘We had a plan from the outset, and stuck to it – and it paid off. As such, I am more than happy with third place – after all, this is my first podium finish here in Argentina. We expected the rally to be extremely tough, and that proved to be the case.

‘The route was very rough. In places it was even more extreme than last year. We are proud to have mastered the rally and come away with third place. After leaving Mexico empty-handed, it was important to score points.’

Latvala meanwhile was happy to have scored points for his team: ‘No question: to retire whilst leading is bitterly disappointing. This is not what we had in mind for the Rally Argentina. We hit a rock on the 14th stage of the rally, which broke something on the car and ended up with us rolling.

‘Remarkable effort’
‘However, despite our disappointment, the priority today was to help the team. My mechanics put in a remarkable effort to get the Polo R WRC back in the rally, and I wanted to reward them for that with some manufacturer points today. A track rod broke on the Power Stage, but we still made it to the finish and picked up two points.’

Volkswagen’s winning run of twelve back-to-back victories came to an end in Argentina, after the team from Wolfsburg had gone 335 days undefeated. Ogier and Ingrassia and Mikkelsen and Jæger picked up podiums number 73 and 74 respectively for the Polo R WRC in the rally machine’s 43rd rally since joining the world championship series in 2013. The Polo R WRC also won eleven of the 18 stages in Argentina.

The next round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship is the 19-22 May Rally Portugal.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY ARGENTINA FINAL RESULTS
1 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai: 3h 40m 52.9s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: + 14.3s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen: + 1m 05.2s
4 Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai: + 1m 17.1s
5 Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford: + 4m 56.7s

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Sébastien Ogier, 96
2 Hayden Paddon, 57
3 Mads Østberg, 52
4 Andreas Mikkelsen, 48
5 Dani Sordo, 44

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 117
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 81
3 M-Sport, 62
4 Hyundai Motorsport N, 49
5 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 45

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